This competition is wide open...
Bayern Munich can take solace in the fact that many of the game’s best found matchday 2 of the Champions League less than rewarding and maybe even downright disappointing. Manchester United continued their downward spiral drawing with Valencia, Manchester City only just eked out a victory over Hoffenheim, Real Madrid were shocked by CSKA Moscow, and Liverpool’s brutal run seems to be catching up to them as they lost to Napoli in heartbreaking fashion. Taking this into account makes Bayern’s draw a little easier to stomach and leaves a glimmer of hope for the Bavarian giants if Niko Kovac can get the team back on track.
Parity seems to be at an all-time high in world soccer and the top of the pyramid is more evenly matched than in year’s past. This has the makings of a UCL where it is better to finish second in the group due to the struggles of the world’s elite. All of the aforementioned teams, including Bayern and with the possible exception of United, should rebound from these early set backs and reassert their dominance, but no clear cut favorite has emerged.
But Barcelona is the team to beat
If any team has started to flex their muscles in this competition, it is Barcelona. An impressive 4-2 win over Tottenham at Wembley was highlighted by a dominant display of attacking football, which would give any opposing defense nightmares. The Blaugrauna back line is good for a mistake, but Phillipe Coutinho, Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, and the rest of the gang have what it takes to outscore anyone in the world. Juventus look to be their main challengers at the moment and if the rest of the competition don’t step it up soon, the Catalan club could run away with it.
German teams (not named Bayern) showed some life
A dominating display by Borussia Dortmund, a last gasp victory from Schalke, and a valiant effort from Hoffenheim gave Bundesliga fans something to smile about in light of Bayern’s woes. After a relatively slow start for the Bundesliga trio, each club seemed to grow more comfortable in European competition. Although Schalke and Hoffenheim have struggled to kick on domestically, strong performances from each could kick-start a run up the Bundesliga table. 1st-placed Dortmund are hitting their stride under Lucien Favre and the addition of lethal striker Paco Alcacer looks to be a stroke of genius, plugging an Aubameyang/Batshuayi- sized hole up top. The black and yellows have a solid mix of youth and experience and are hungry to challenge across all competitions. *Whispers* There is a title race underway in the Bundesliga (REMAIN CALM).
Success in Europe can only improve the Bundesliga as a whole, which can only make Bayern better. Whether or not a team other than BVB have what it takes to sustain this success remains to be seen, but Matchday 2 was a step in the right direction for German clubs.